Our industry has fallen into the custom of producing technologies that are incredibly useful for the operator but do little for their true end-users. While the goal of most vendors is to provide goods or services that reduce overhead and boost the organization’s efficiency, the product’s value is greatly reduced if it doesn’t also benefit the casino’s customer base.
Have you ever seen the slot theme “Chainsaws and Toasters?” This game theme represented both the best and worst of our industry practices as it relates to implementing innovative technology that benefits the casino, while ignoring players’ needs and desires.
During the industrywide conversion process from coin to ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) technology in the early 2000s, manufacturers exhausted their game theme libraries as they struggled to keep up with the demand of replacing the game kits on every non-compatible TITO game in the market. In an effort to create new themes to meet industry needs, major gaming companies randomly picked two items that had absolutely nothing to do with each other, cloned the math of a proven theme and threw it out into the market. The explanation provided at the time was the content didn’t matter; slot players would play anything.
Sadly, they were correct. During that time period, customers would play virtually any vacant game because demand far exceeded the offerings available. The revenues created during this time of economic imbalance allowed casinos to reinvest their money into games like never before. Coupling this with the necessity to replace coin-operated games with TITO technology and the scarcity of titles created a perfect storm that allowed us to disregard players entirely.
Fast forward to 2013. Supply vastly exceeds demand, revenues are down, meaningful re-investment in capital infrastructure is problematic for almost every casino in the country and the cost of new cabinets has increased from an average of $8,000 to more than $20,000. The value of a compelling game conversion is now a top priority for all properties, yet the availability of new game concepts doesn’t seem to be an industry priority. The use of cloned games is not a bad thing, but it can only do so much. While it can provide a distraction for our existing player base, it will do little to entice new players to our facilities.
Customer expectation has evolved over the past 10 years. The impulse to play any available machine has been replaced with an expectation on the part of the player for an immersive overall gaming experience. The expectation of new and exciting gaming opportunities will rarely be satisfied by the déjà vu-like experience of spending their entertainment dollars on a cloned, vaguely familiar, new slot game. Make no mistake, manufacturers are only providing this type of content because casino operators are willing to pay for it. To stay competitive, operators must give more thought and diligence to the dollars spent on new products and the choices made for your facilities.
So, what is the best bang for your available re-investment dollars? Is your plan as simple as getting all the newest variations of Chainsaws and Toasters? Can you still operate effectively by simply shooting for the “industry target” of replacing 15 to 20 percent of games per year while using up all of your capital? No, that is an antiquated mindset that absolutely requires rethinking.
Customers come to our properties for a variety of reasons, including associating with others, escaping from their routine, receiving recognition and the overall excitement created by the casino environment. Much like children visiting an amusement park, casino customers want an environment that offers entertainment and opportunities they cannot find anywhere else. If casinos can offer them this experience, it stands to reason that customers will want to spend as much time as possible in these environments and repeat the experience as often as their pocketbook allows.
While every customer would love to win, customer gratification is measured by the overall experience, not by how much money they walk away with. If the majority of our patrons were primarily interested in winning, our industry would have collapsed years ago. Our players want increased playing time, more opportunities to win and friendly service in a safe, clean and exciting atmosphere. They will gladly pay for these amenities if you provide them.
A patron’s willingness to pay for a unique experience without a true expectation of monetary return creates some amazing possibilities for us, if we offer exceptional customer service and a wide variety of options, rather than the same game in a different color or size. A profusion of gaming innovations on the market today can greatly assist you in delivering this experience. While automated dispatching and player recognition tools are not new games, they can have a much more significant and immediate impact on your slot floor and the overall player experience.
Investing in products designed to place the needs of the customer first is essential in today’s casino environment, and the dividends from such products will far exceed their cost. Customers, no matter if they are in a restaurant or a casino, crave timely personalized assistance. Utilizing products designed with the customer in mind will help you achieve a new standard of service within your facility.
The widespread adoption of player-centric solutions is the key to keeping our industry both healthy and relevant. While the majority of our capital budget should go toward new games designed to delight and enthrall our customers, a portion must be spent to ensure their experience is personalized and comfortable. After all, the customer measures the worth of the experience on the entire visit, not just time on device.